What are the key components of a DITA map?

A DITA map consists of key components that provide structure and organization to DITA-based content. These components include topics, maps, and references, allowing authors to create hierarchical structures for content organization and presentation.


Topics are individual content units, typically in the form of XML files, that contain specific information or instructions. Topics can be written for various purposes, such as providing product descriptions, user guides, technical documentation, or any other structured content. Each topic is self-contained and focuses on a specific subject or task. For example, a topic might contain instructions on how to set up a software application.


Maps are containers within the DITA map that allow authors to organize topics and other maps hierarchically. Maps serve as a way to structure content into sections or chapters and control the order in which topics are presented. Maps can be used to create a table of contents, chapters, or other structured document components. For example, a DITA map for a user manual might have sections for installation, troubleshooting, and advanced features, each containing references to relevant topics.


References are links or pointers that connect the map to topics, allowing authors to incorporate individual topics into the map’s structure. References define the order in which topics appear within a map and can include metadata and attributes that influence how topics are presented. For example, a reference in a DITA map might link to a specific topic file and define its title, order, and other attributes.


An organization creates a user manual for its software product using DITA. The map for this manual includes four DITA topics.

<!DOCTYPE map PUBLIC "-//OASIS//DTD DITA Map//EN" "map.dtd">
  <title>Product User Guide</title>
  <topicref href="introduction.dita"/>
  <topicref href="installation.dita"/>
  <topicref href="operation.dita"/>
  <topicref href="troubleshooting.dita"/>

In this example, the DITA map contains a title, “Product User Guide,” and references to four individual topics: introduction, installation, operation, and troubleshooting. The DITA map organizes these topics into a structured document, defining the order in which they appear and their relationship to each other.